Magazine May 4, 2020, Issue

Want Toilet Paper in an Epidemic?

A worker boxes rolls of toilet paper prior to shipping, Bangor, Maine, April 7, 2020. (Ashley L. Conti/Reuters)
The free market will supply it faster than any government could

Socialist economies have long been rightly notorious for empty shelves. As the saying goes, in Communism, people wait for bread; in capitalism, bread waits for people. The more the government controls the production and sale of consumer goods, and the more it interferes with business investment, the emptier the shelves get. With shortages of toilet paper and other essentials striking the U.S. economy in the opening weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, some critics of free-market economies are striking back: “See,” they say, “now capitalism has empty shelves!”

“Capitalism during a pandemic is the same as socialism in normal times” is not

This article appears as “Want Toilet Paper?” in the May 4, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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